In fact, we are living in such unusual times that the adage “a week is a long time in politics” seems overly cautious, and Lenin’s observation “There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen” is more appropriate.
While Simon Bridges is very unlikely to ever come close to matching Ardern’s popularity, he still has time to revive National’s prospects — which, it should be remembered, were rosy enough on February 13 for a Colmar Brunton poll to predict National could form a government with Act.
And while the government’s response to Covid-19 has catapulted Ardern into the political stratosphere, it has also brutally exposed the lack of depth in Labour’s line-up. It’s extraordinary that in a pandemic that has paralysed the economy, and the tourist industry in particular, the government appears not to have a capable Minister of Health or Minister of Tourism.
In fact, David Clark had disappeared from public view even before he broke lockdown rules to visit his holiday home, while Kelvin Davis — who is also the party’s deputy leader — has been mostly AWOL in the heat of battle. And you’d have to say his rare media appearance on Paul Henry’s show Rebuilding Paradise last week did little to inspire confidence that the future of what was our biggest export earner is in safe hands.
National may not have an international star as a leader but it does have a clutch of experienced former ministers within its ranks who know how to get things done. The government has earned itself a well-deserved reputation for failing on logistics — from KiwiBuild to Auckland’s light rail proposal. The fact it may also have failed to ensure that the severe lockdown it imposed was lawful will come as little surprise to many.
Can anyone name a major infrastructure project that has gone well under this Government?
Whether the virus is quelled or not, in four months’ time the wreckage of New Zealand’s economy will be visible from space. Last week, leaked documents showed the Ministry of Social Development is preparing for an extra 300,000 benefit applications in response to mass unemployment generated by the pandemic.
You don’t have to be a seer to guess that material concerns and a desire for economic and logistical competence will likely trump all other considerations — including abstract notions of “wellbeing” and admonitions to “be kind” — in choosing the next government.
People will want jobs rather than handouts — and quickly. Like Scott Morrison in last year’s Australian election (which he won against nearly all predictions), Bridges will be able to fuel his election campaign with a cry of “Jobs and growth!”
In fact, National may have already found its election mantra with its slogan currently circulating on social media: “We’ll get New Zealand working again.”
While Labour seems intent on continuing with policies that make it harder and more expensive to hire people.