Watkins on the start to election year


Two things happened after Bill English named the election date that should worry his opponents.

used its advantage to hit the ground running – promising more cops, whacking petrol companies about the head with an inquiry into pricing, and wiping historic homosexuality convictions.

Meanwhile, squandered its good start to the year.

Add to that English’s good call on Waitangi and Little’s bad calls. And the liberalisation of medicinal cannabis.

One of Little’s MPs even hired a PR firm to publicly call him out on it. MPs have been expelled for less. 

Again, extraordinary.

Only one of these parties looks like it’s ready for an election.

The other looks like a candidate for euthanasia.

Kiwis have an insatiable appetite for Donald Trump. The world stops, even when Trump mouthpiece Sean Spicer speaks.

For the political junkies among us, it’s overwhelming – and strangely gratifying – to be surrounded by so many new sufferers of our disorder. 

But this is a new, extreme-tourism style of politics; loud, dangerous and frenetic. And it’s sucking up the political oxygen here.

The same day that English announced nearly 1000 new cops, the story broke about Trump’s “worst call by far” abuse of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  No contest.

The Opposition is finding it even harder to get traction.

But what happens when exhaustion sets in and Trump’s power to shock is diminished? Will a politics-weary public switch off?

That could be fatal for Labour and the Greens. When the phone is off the hook it’s hard for opposition parties to get cut through. 

Dirty Politics and Dot Com sucked up all the media last time, which helped National. Will Trump do the same? Who cares about the new housing policy announced by Labour, have you seen Donald Trump’s latest outraegous tweet!

But there is another scenario. One in which we get swept along by the same forces of extreme anti-establishment-ism, a deep cynicism with the political system and a rejection of the status quo. 

The things that were broken that drove change in Britain and the United States are not so broken here. There is still a high level of trust in the integrity of our institutions, immigration has not produced the same pressures as in Britain (and the rest of Europe) and we are untouched by terrorism.  

But Brexit and the US election were notable for the willingness of some deliberately to erode public confidence in the system and not always by telling the truth. 

Will the rules also be thrown out the window here? 

Hopefully not, but Winston will try. He has a Trump like connection to telling the truth.

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