Upton on Line - Elections as beauty contest
In this, the final edition before the election, upton-on-line feels generous and expansive. We begin with a bouquet for both leaders, Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark. They have vied for the electorate's favour competently, politely and, on the whole, with good grace. We have suffered little of the histrionics of past times.
However, upton-on-line feels duty bound to throw a few last-minute punches. Elections are more than a popularity contest. Elections are all about issues, and there are some big ones here.
Pollsters (and some indecently jubilant journalists) are putting their money on a Centre Left government. The only poll that counts has yet to be taken. But, if the country does back Labour and Alliance, we will have the first truly left wing government this country has had for 25 years.
It would not be a good one. We ask:
Why in 1999 would we want to provide statutory protection to unions to allow them to once again undermine good workplace relations?
Why in 1999 would we want to take away the right of schools to determine their own priorities and revert to central bureaucratic control?
Why in 1999 would we want to abolish the independent audit of schools' performance?
Why in 1999 would we want to hand back the governance of sophisticated, complex hospital systems to locally elected do-gooders (and not-so-gooders)?
Why in 1999 would we want to start back down the road of increasing taxes in the belief that we'll all get richer? (Remember: the last time taxes went up - Labour's increase in GST to 12.5% - the economy stopped in its tracks).
Why in 1999 would we want to set off a great expansion in central government with the promise of 392 Ministries, Reviews, Commissions, Portfolios and what have you, to pry into every aspect of modern life?
In fact we (ie New Zealand as a whole) don't show any great enthusiasm for any of this. More disturbingly, most don't have a clue that this is what the Labour party is about. The actual numbers barracking for these policies, each of which rewards a particular interest group, is very small.
Campaign coverage, meanwhile, has focussed almost entirely on leaders, tactics, polls, and the interpretation placed on their progress by journalists. Politics is in danger of being reduced to a beauty contest - centred entirely on superficial looks with three banal questions about whether you want to help the world's children thrown in purely as a token gesture.
Yesterday upton-on-line spent the afternoon handing out National Party propaganda on the streets of downtown Hamilton, and had the time of his life. It was a hot day, so most cars had their windows down and pamphlets could easily be inserted. Some Hamiltonians feigned disapproval, but upton-on-line received only one threat of decapitation at the hands of a patu wielding citizen who disagreed with one or two of our policies.
A handful of other awards:
Most brazen politician: John Campbell of TV3.
Dumbest idea: lots of intelligent middle class voters thinking they'll help National by voting for another party.
Funniest politician: Richard Prebble, his roof top speech yesterday was a tour-de-force.
political commentator: Colin James, as