Labour’s attacks last week on National leader John Key reeked of the desperation engendered by that sort of poll result. First there was an attempt to diminish the lustre of Mr Key by linking his economic management skills to the failure of his former employer, Merrill Lynch.
Then there was an exercise in shroud-waving by Prime Minister Helen Clark. She produced a “back-of-the-envelope” calculation, based on American deaths in Iraq, to suggest 60 New Zealanders would have been killed had Mr Key been able to commit New Zealand to the coalition of the willing.
Neither stands up to scrutiny. Mr Key left Merrill Lynch long ago and, were he of a mind to respond in kind to what is a facile attack, could point out that it got into trouble only when deprived of his skills. As for Iraq, he could remind Miss Clark that most of the Americans killed there died after the initial invasion and that she committed defence personnel there for a good chunk of the subsequent occupation, operating under a United Nations mandate, without suffering casualties.
Yes. Finally a mention of the fact Clark had troops there for 12 months.
It is understandable that Miss Clark and her colleagues have decided to embark on negative campaigning, and attempt to shift the focus to Mr Key. That must seem a better strategy than leaving voters to focus on her inexplicable refusal to do the honourable thing and cut NZ First leader Winston Peters adrift. He and his party are now trapped in a swamp of evasion, half-truths and changed versions of events, which have left him at best guilty of rank hypocrisy over party funding and, at worst, of lying to the public. Yet she, by sticking with him, has waded into the same mire.
And not just lying one but time after time after time.
And finally on the EFA:
Attacking Mr Key must also seem better than leaving voters to focus on what Electoral Commission chief Helena Catt has called the “chilling effect” on democracy of the Electoral Finance Act. That act was pushed through by Labour despite warnings that it was an ill-considered, ill-drafted piece of legislation that would make taking part in the political process arduous and possibly dangerous.
It is small comfort that those caught in its stifling web are largely its advocates. Labour is uncertain how much of the cost of union pamphlets praising it and attacking National policies it will have to include in its election expenses, while Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton has been pinged twice, which he says is bizarre.
What is bizarre is that he tried to argue to the commission that his newsletter should not be subject to the same rules faced by members of the public, because he is an MP and it should be protected by parliamentary privilege. That is just another symptom of the arrogance of power that afflicts this Government, and that has seen voters turn against it.
They really do think they are above the law. Mind you, only because so often they have been and got away with it.