The love of the common people
Like an old Paul Young tune, the National Party has finally twigged to a vital fact – it needs the love of the common people if it is to ever regain the treasury benches from Labour’s Amazons. But how? Leader Don
Brash whistled a few notes of the new theme tune at last month’s Orewa speech, and at first blush it seems he may be on to something. Not in the grab-em-by-the-cojones style of his race relations circuit breaker a year earlier, but more in the style of a slow burner — a navigational change that doesn’t seem so big right now but come election time will offer voters a clear choice.
What Brash, and behind him National’s strategists like Murray McCully, has done is recognise that the Clark Government has massively polarized the country in a way not seen since the last Muldoon years. There is no “middle ground” in Labour support — Prime Minister Helen Clark’s supporters worship her like a heathen goddess, her detractors loathe her administration with a passion that few bother to conceal these days. It is hard to find somebody genuinely on the fence in this election year — while there are many professing to be on the fence, when pushed you’ll find they simply can’t agree on a viable alternative to Labour. It is said that Oppositions don’t win elections, Governments lose them.
This year could be an exception to that rule if the centre right Opposition parties cannot convince the electorate that they have the mana to rule and rule well. More people loathe Labour than love it — that much is clear from National’s ability to surge dramatically into the lead in the polls on key issues. But forging an alliance among the disparate groups who oppose the Government is proving more difficult.
Hence Brash’s appeal to the average kiwi battler.
National knows that little and medium-sized punters on Struggle Street hold the key to this election. These are people who pay taxes, work long hours in honest toil to feed not only their own family but a rapidly burgeoning coterie of Labour Party hangers-on. There’s no truth to the biting rumour in some circles that Government-owned Air New Zealand will be introducing a new “Beneficiary Class” to cater for Labour Party supporters when the public funding trough is widened in this year’s budget.
The average Kiwi has traditionally been fairly tolerant and ready to lend a hand to those further down the rung, but Labour Government moves like The Artist’s Dole and $30,000 grants for Hip-Hop holidays and reunions in Las Vegas for NZ members of the Lesbian Patagonian/NZ Friendship Society and Birdwatching Club, or the mysterious leap in sickness and invalid beneficiary numbers while Labour crows about reduced numbers on the unemployment benefit, all of this adds up to some beneficiaries not only biting the hand that feeds but amputating it at the shoulder.
Increasingly, Labour has been showing signs of a party living it up like there’s no tomorrow, spending vast fortunes buying votes in immigrant and beneficiary communities so it can impose massive social engineering on a reluctant majority population.
If National can convince the bruised and battered battlers on Struggle Street that it’s time to stop rolling over every time the Labourettes in the Beehive hiss, then we could yet see a change in Government.