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An indecent obsession

19 August 2000 Media Statement

An indecent obsession

The National Party's obsession with Helen Clark and her government is deepening judging by events at its annual conference, Dunedin North MP and Labour Party strategist Pete Hodgson said today.

"It is alarming that National's president John Slater – in his first address to a full party conference since the November election – delivered a lengthy whinge about the government rather than address the reasons for National's defeat," Mr Hodgson said.

"Observers were astounded that nearly four pages of Mr Slater's speech were devoted to bagging the government and trying to convince the party faithful that their days in opposition would be short-lived.

"Mrs Shipley, her leadership fast approaching its expiry date, fell into the same trap during her opening comments yesterday, effectively consoling delegates with the message that they simply had to turn up at the next election and victory would be theirs.

"Roger Sowry was another who demonstrated he has fallen under the spell of Helen Clark, which meant he also failed to address his party's policy malaise.

"The government finds this most intriguing. But surely National's rank-and-file deserve better. The party should be taking a long, hard look at itself and the policy mix that sent it crashing out of government last November. Instead the conference is being served up the same old born-to-rule arrogance.

"Helen Clark's forthright and decisive style has National transfixed. Its focus group testing will be telling the same story as elsewhere – that Helen Clark's upfront and astute leadership is a huge electoral asset.

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"So National's only discernible 'strategy' is to attack the Prime Minister's credibility, trying to drag her into every issue on which it believes the government is vulnerable. The folly of this approach will eventually dawn on National.

"National is refusing to face up to the reasons it lost the election. It fails to see how out of touch it had become, and remains. In the meantime it harbours an indecent obsession with a government that keeps its word," Mr Hodgson said.

ENDS

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