Ben Uffindell: The future of the nation - it's in your hands

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No longer can you sit idly by and ignore the issues of the day, writes Ben Uffindell. Photo / Martin Hunter
No longer can you sit idly by and ignore the issues of the day, writes Ben Uffindell. Photo / Martin Hunter

Nation, we need to talk. I know, I know, you're busy. You've just sat down with a coffee, picked up your Herald on Sunday, and you're thinking to yourself: "I'm going to scan my eyes vaguely across this page and skim the first thing I see in an effort to appear sophisticated."

Perhaps you even believe you are; that's why your coffee is fair trade and you pay too much attention to your sleeves. Such is your disengagement from the news.

But friend, that time is over. No longer can you sit idly by and ignore the issues of the day, for the writ has been written, and the 2014 election campaign has begun.

The first thing that means is that the election campaign is already over. It's sort of like American Idol; by the time the last stretch of the show begins, the votes have already been tallied, everyone has made up their minds, and all that is left to do is force the audience to endure a painful series of performances that will add nothing to the final result.

Cue election advertising. On Wednesday, National released its first television advertisement, which I'm fairly certain is a rip-off of an ad I've seen for Weetbix.

A group of nine white people dressed in blue are seen vigorously rowing towards the sunrise as a voiceover gets the lyrics to Eminem's Lose Yourself terribly wrong. National wishes us to believe it's the kayak of blue people, and that it's doing well.

But it's hard to tell, because it doesn't appear to be racing anybody. The ad briefly cuts to a depiction of the opposition but they're in a dinghy, so it's hardly a fair comparison.

It's unclear why National chose rowing to represent itself; a sport that involves a large group of people quickly moving in one direction without looking where they're going.

Meanwhile, Labour released its own, similarly confusing, ad featuring the entire caucus standing in formation on the lawn outside Parliament, as David Cunliffe says just three words, after which they all presumably keep standing there.

So what have we learned from these ads? National is out somewhere in a race against itself while Labour is still in Wellington, engaging in the weirdest lunch break ever.

And that's not all that inaccurate. Sure, lunch breaks don't normally last six years with no one feeling like stopping anytime soon, but that is more or less where it's at.

And National really does feel like it has only itself to worry about, with almost no genuine competition. Indeed, its greatest challenges this cycle have come from entirely non-political sources.

In this weird, sort of magical way, highly removed political realities play themselves out in seemingly unrelated ways.

Sure, the strength of a leader in his caucus doesn't mean anything to the public but it does mean something to his MPs, which in turn means something to the media, which then subtly - or not so subtly - changes its tone.

But then, slowly but surely, regular people start to feel that little tug on their wrist in the ballot box. It's probably tetanus, but there's a chance they're changing their mind.

It's this process of filtration that gradually changes public sentiment, but unfortunately for some, it usually takes more than a month.


Ben Uffindell is the editor of The Civilian website.

- Herald on Sunday

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