National looks desperate | The Jackal

7 Sep 2017

National looks desperate

As we get closer to the much-anticipated 2017 election, the National party is looking increasingly desperate. From making up allegations about fiscal holes to tough on crime rhetoric and beneficiary bashing, Bill English is playing a losing hand of out-dated ideas to empty venues all over the country.

But don’t take my word for it. Some of New Zealand’s most well known journalists are also pointing out one of the biggest flaws in National’s campaign strategy, which is policy developed on the fly because of desperation.

Yesterday, Tracey Watkins on Stuff reported:

Desperate and dangerous times on the campaign trail

Regardless of whether you buy into the argument that Joyce was just spinning or being deliberately misleading  - , National is not going to back down. With a campaign built on fiscal management, it's not about to concede any ground on the economy to Labour.

And National is something it wasn't a month ago - and that's desperate. Till now, it's ministers had never seriously contemplated losing the power and perks of office.

It’s not just the perks of office National should be worried about losing; it’s the fact that after nine long years they have lots of political skeletons in their closets to hide.

A change in government would allow more of their corruption and policy failings to become public knowledge. In fact that's likely the main reason for National’s current desperation.

Yesterday, John Armstrong on 1 News reported:

Joyce looks a proper fool, but it won't stop National throwing everything it can at Ardern

But the current ruling party does not enjoy the luxury of being able to wait for things to go wrong.

As Joyce has demonstrated, desperate times may call for desperate measures.

With little over two weeks to go until polling day, Labour will thus be bracing itself for National to conduct a none too subtle scare offensive on economic policy which will be short on fact and long on painting Labour as the fiscal equivalent of a methamphetamine addict when it comes to wasting money.

In chucking everything it can at Ardern — including the kitchen sink if that helps —National will not give a toss about the criticism that will be hurled in its direction for suddenly going negative.

National should give a toss because some of that criticism is being reported in widely read publications, and therefore equals lost votes.

It’s pretty clear Armstrong leans towards the political right, which makes his assessment of the National party all the more telling.

Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson also called out National’s ill-advised strategy.

On Monday, Bernard Hickey on Newsroom reported:

Election 2017 Live: Leaders clash in fiery debate

Robertson said Labour would also be asking Government departments to find efficiencies to offset some of the inflation and population pressures on costs.

"I think this is a desperate act from a flailing Finance Minister," he said.

"He's trying to mislead the New Zealand public. I believe they'll see through it."

Robertson reiterated Labour's previously stated policy of creating an independent office for budget analysis within Parliament, which would analyse Treasury's budgets and price the respective policies in a way similar to the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Britain's Office for Budget Responsibility.

Even Cameron Slater thinks Bill English looks decidedly desperate.

The problem for National is there won’t be any significant increase in poll ratings by getting tough on crime or beneficiary bashing. The people who support such archaic policy ideas are already pretty entrenched in their respective belief systems and who they vote for. The vast majority won’t switch just because National is able to gain a few headlines by creating a bit of controversy.

Instead, National’s more intelligent and politically engaged supporters will see the desperate announcements for what they are; a grab for attention without any real substance. There is evidently no change from the failed policy direction of the last nine years and National is still the same old party, just without the Teflon.

National actually runs the risk of losing middle New Zealand voters to Labour by trying to siphon support from NZ First with badly performed policy announcements.

The error in National’s campaign methodology is apparent for all to see, even more so since Joyce’s attack on Labour’s fiscal plan instead blew a hole in National’s bow. There is no question this gaffe was a huge own goal for campaign strategist, Steven Joyce. The backlash over his economic nonsense will likely continue to eat away at National’s credibility well into polling day and beyond.

The increased pressure from such campaigning malfunctions could make National even more prone to mistakes and stressed about the prospect of a life on the opposition benches... compounding their already clearly evident desperation.

By employing such negative tactics, National runs the risk of going the way of the Act party, which is basically the basket case of New Zealand’s political right wing parties. Announcing controversial policy just to get attention has seen their support plummet to only 0.3%, and they now stand on the edge of political oblivion.

If a desperate National party continues with their failed and dirty political strategy, a change of government is almost assuredly on the cards. In fact it’s more likely now than this time out from the last three general elections.