We knew that the National Party were going to milk their position in government for everything that its worth this election year, feeding tiny little tidbits of nice populist policy to the public to pretend that we haven’t had six years of basically nothing being given to us, therefore cynically maximising their votes in the process.
It appears that now this has begun, with two recent announcements heralding the start of National’s election year suck up.
The first cute little announcement came from John Key, when he mentioned that he was considering having a referendum about changing the New Zealand flag. Nobody should be fooled into thinking that Key has happened to mention that he might address one of the longest standing New Zealand debates in ever purely because of his own convictions. It is not a coincidence that this topic has been broached at the beginning of election year. Key knows that this is a highly polarising issue in New Zealand – as he said, the country is 50-50 divided on the topic- and by holding a referendum on it he will capture the attention of the country. Everyone will be talking about whether or not we should have a new flag, and forget about the actual election debates. Key also gets props from the people that want to change the flag, as well as the populace in general for being the man who opened up an ‘important New Zealand issue’ to the democratic process.
Okay, so changing the flag might be a good discussion to have. The Union Jack on the current flag is outdated, and represents something that New Zealand is no longer identified by. However, the flag isn’t facing all time low wages. The flag isn’t in poverty. Every day isn’t a constant struggle for the flag. The real issues this year are child poverty and development, housing, unemployment and all the other things that acutally have an effect on people’s lives. John Key knows that Labour are going to hold him to task on a lot of those issues. This why he is playing politics on this flag issue, and damn good politics at that. What Labour need to do now, other than a few opening remarks similar to what I’m writing now, is to ot talk about the flag issue, and ensure that public attention is focussed on what actually matters like, I don’t know, maybe children being brought up right?
The other matter is Bill English’s announcement of budget day in mid-May. While we obviously can’t comment too much on this before we actually know what’s in the budget, we can be sure that we will be seeing some really nice things being given to New Zealand after 6 years of austerity. English is already promising a little surplus and some wage increases, and you can bet that there will be some new programmes with glitzy names and ambitious promises to bring voters back to the government.
What we need to remember is that these promises come from a place of exceptional cynicism. The National goverment have not signalled any great desire to enact any reforms that provide sweeping benefits for the whole public. People should not be fooled by National playing politics. Focus on the party that will consistently create the policies that raise your standard of living. Don’t vote for someone just because they have offered you something that sounds good in election year. John Key may be playing politics, and playing it very well, but if we focus on what’s important, then the rhetoric will fall away, and we will be left with what is really on offer.