Tough campaigning in Auckland - Upton On Line
19 November 1999
Last evening upton-on-line performed the onerous task of attending a "Celebration of France" extravaganza dinner at Auckland's Sheraton hotel. Our job for the evening was to welcome the arrival of this year's nouveau beaujolais. Bonjour, Monsieur Beaujolais!
The French Ambassador, His Excellency Monsieur Jackie Musnier, spoke briefly but eloquently about the importance of wine for civilisation and went on to make the sage remark, "anyone who drinks wine can't be all that bad". Upton-on-line's eyes misted over.
Helen Clark, we are told, is very fond of Chardonnay (although we are not so certain about some of her more hard-line colleagues).
Does this mean we are obliged to put our faith in Mr Jackie's dictum? Fortunately, there are other dicta on which we can rely at these moments: either, "a week is a long time in politics", or "bugger the polls" will do.
To those in the press who would prefer to knock out their election night stories in advance this week, we have only this to say: "one moment please, there's plenty of life in this old dog yet".
Yesterday (as distinct from yesternight) was spent in and around Queen Street talking to small crowds of workers who took time away from interrogating their screens to ponder the political landscape.
Upton-on-line reminded them of the oft-forgotten fact that this decade National has paid off the country's mortgage (government foreign currency debt, that is). It may not have been a great vote winner, but it's what the country desperately needed and we are immensely better off for it – helping us save about $3 billion a year on our interest bills since 1991. It's a pity that the next generation can't bring its votes forward because it is the greatest beneficiary.
Upton-on-line also ventured into deepest Penrose to part of the Carter Holt Harvey empire where 25 workers asked some of the best questions of the campaign. (The further people's daily lives are from the cynicism of the media and the righteous intonings of lobby groups, the better-humoured and more practical they seem to be).
At the risk of irritating some breathless commentators, upton-on-line expressed increasing exasperation with those who liken us to Ireland or Finland.
New Zealand does not sit in the midst of Europe, surrounded by 300 million wealthy neighbours, welcoming our produce. The richer you are – and the bigger your local market – the more stuff-ups you can afford. 3.8 million people at the last bus stop on the planet have less rope than any other developed economy with which to hang themselves.
So anyone who thinks we can try a spot of indulgent European-style social democracy had better get real. We're not rich enough to pretend that pigs can fly.
Before the electorate next Saturday is the first real choice in 25 years. Labour and the Alliance are offering a genuinely unreconstructed, left-wing government (not seen since the days of Norman Kirk).
It is a political recipe that has cooked up an astonishing array of flops every time it's been dug out of the drawer.
Expect the Government to be pulling out all the stops next week.