Under Jacinda Ardern, Labour is fundamentally a do-nothing government. Both its success and its failures are directly attributable to its ability to get nothing done. While it’s reasonable to be grateful for the health impacts of Covid-19 being so close to nothing, voters should only give Labour another three years if they want to stagnate.
By the end of 2019, voters were sick of Labour’s failure to achieve. National’s surpluses were gone and yet poverty had increased, house prices were increasing faster than ever, surgeries were down, and health waiting lists were up. Labour’s promises to invest in Kiwibuild, light rail, tree planting, health, and education were either failures or, at best, merely tokenistic window dressing. National was consistently ahead in the polls by over 5% on the back of Labour’s thorough failure to deliver. Voters saw that Labour was a promise-everything, do-nothing government… and didn’t like what they saw.
Then came Covid-19. While 25 deaths are hugely tragic, New Zealand overall has been relatively unscathed by this deadly virus. The protection of Kiwis has been the Labour government’s great success. And how did they do it? By making sure nothing happened! Lockdowns stop the virus from spreading in the community by stopping the community. Suddenly, under Covid-19, the key to success was for Labour to do what they were best at — making nothing happen.
Now, none of this is to say that Labour’s do-nothing culture wasn’t a danger to our Covid success. It worked for implementing lockdowns, but Labour had to be talked into locking down in the first place. Voices outside of government also had to talk or shame Labour into adding border restrictions, providing enough PPE and flu vaccinations, setting and following MIQ rules, making MIQ sufficiently secure, properly testing in MIQ, properly testing MIQ and border workers, and properly testing in the community. Labour can take credit for doing these things before disasters occurred, but credit is also due to those who prodded them out of inaction. And also to luck.
But, the main thing has been that Kiwis have been safe. The public have been happy with that and have rewarded Labour in the polls. That gratitude now looks like it might deliver another three years of Labour government.
Is that what Kiwis really want? I have to believe it’s not. Kiwis definitely want safety, but safety isn’t in play in this election. The Covid response template is set and a government of any stripe can and will follow it. The choice in this election is between letting Labour’s do-nothing stagnation waste three precious years while building a mountain of debt for the next generation or National delivering three years of progress towards a better New Zealand.
Voters now know what Labour means. They say “let’s keep moving” but we haven’t been moving forward and they don’t know how to. They can imagine and sell a vision but have no idea how to get there or how to avoid obstacles and pitfalls on the way. They have plenty of hope for the future but no hope of delivering anything necessary to achieve it. They are capable of following advice given in the form of instructions but are not capable of independently making decisions or combining advice from various sources to form their own opinion. When Phil Twyford and David Clark are their stars, they have no stars. They are a government that asks working groups to think of what to do and the public service to figure out how to do it and provides nothing but an expensive layer of public relations and credit-taking. They are always reactive, never proactive.
So, Labour is desperate to make this election about anything other than delivery. They attack National as mean when National is honest about the need for tough choices and the need to make sacrifices to benefit the next generation. They attack National as desperate for power when National is desperate for New Zealand to do better. They attack National as unsafe when National has consistently driven for a stronger and more coordinated Covid response. They attack National as focused on the economy over people when National recognises the economy as critical for wellbeing. They attack National for not aiming for the sky on poverty and the environment when National aims for achievable progress and delivers it. Labour does all these things because they know they’re do-nothing. Their only hope is to scare Kiwis into thinking National is a fire so we stay in their frying pan.
So, thank Jacinda and her team for New Zealand’s awesome health outcome. Be grateful to them for it. Love them for it. But, don’t hand them the keys to the country. They don’t know what to do with them.