The saying “a week is a long time in politics” is attributed to past UK PM Harold Wilson. While Wilson is long gone, the saying could be well applied to the last week.
The Labour led coalition were looking as though they could sleep walk back into government at the next elections as the then National party leader was striking all the wrong chords with the electorate, and with the PM having daily access to the public. Simon Bridges didn’t seem to have a chance of regaining any lost ground. But his colleagues in opposition were not prepared to remain uncompetitive.
Two damning surveys provided the motivation, and the ammunition, to force change and it was out with Simon-and-Paula and in with Todd-and-Nikki. It also brought a change in approach, with less harping and more acknowledgement of some good work done by the Government in their handling of the cards the pandemic dealt. The New Zealand Government is head and shoulders ahead of any other government in public support, perhaps a little surprising as the New Zealand public also reported the most negative impact on personal and household income of any of the monitored countries.
Given the recent results where the public gave a 90% pass for the handling of the pandemic situation and 80% for how the economic fall out has been handled, showing, at least outwardly, some approval of the current Government has been a wise move.
Under Simon Bridges there had been informal rural discussions that the sector may have seen merit in supporting New Zealand First at the next election, because if Labour gets back in, there is the ongoing possibility they will need NZ First as a coalition partner, along with the Greens, to hold on to power. This logic is that NZ First, if they stay with Labour, can act as a mitigating influence on some more extreme leanings that come from the Green left.
On the other hand, if NZ First did not go with Labour then they may be needed by National to form a government, and then the rural sector would have a double voice in Government, both from National and NZ First. If, as the election draws closer and National look more likely to compete with Labour - and generally the polls do close up nearer to election - then it may be that the loser in the results will be NZ First. The rural vote may not see the need to hedge bets and return (if they ever left) to National.
Trump-hat-on-the-sideboard aside, it looks as though with Muller and Kaye there has been a slight move towards the left and so if the electorate believe this, Labour may lose some of their less committed voters to National.
Now that Alert Level 1 is starting to look like a real option soon, the election build-up is the next cab off the rank.
The debate has already shifted to the economy post covid-19, the Government has the benefit of the profile created through the lock-downs but with a new leadership team not encumbered by past foot-in-mouth moments, National will be able to compete better.
For farmers, they may be torn between the options provided by the parties on the direct influences that affect them on farm; that is, the more micro-environment, versus what direction parties are pointing the country in at the macro level.
When it comes to regulations around water and climate change most of the heavy lifting has already been done, or at least we think so until proven otherwise. National will need to come up with some convincing alternatives in policy to regain their lost ground, and three months or so is not a lot of time to do it. As Simon Bridges showed, with the mood the electorate is in, sticking to a negative campaign will not turn things around for them.
If our elections don’t provide the interest to keep the attention going, we can always switch to looking at what is happening in the USA.
For just the reverse reason to how our government handled the Covid-19 fallout, observers would be excused for believing the Democrats have a cake walk to power in November. However, if anything has been learned from recent history it is that nothing should be taken for granted. Given the precarious position the global economy is at, it may be that the greater influence on our macro influences comes out of the United States and the success or otherwise of the New Zealand economy post pandemic may be influenced more by what happens offshore more than anything that occurs within New Zealand.
Trump has managed to drive a wedge between the two largest global economies, and hasn’t been exactly welcoming to the EU along the way.
This, plus the fact that many countries have found that key components to the smooth operation of their economies are being manufactured in other countries, especially China, has provided impetus to more focus on inward looking policies. This may reduce China’s ability to grow its economy and also reduce other countries need to import products. Hopefully, this does not extend to food products although already there are calls in New Zealand to ban the importation of potato fries from the EU as rumours say, due to a lack of sales, there they are being dumped on the international market.
With international governments showing that they are quite prepared to support their farming sectors through subsidies and payments, it may be that with the widespread support to industries from governments, agriculture in our competing countries get unfair advantages over the likes of New Zealand and Australia. If they can keep their production within their borders, fine.
However, if the potato threat becomes real, then we may have a problem.