Is the National Party's election slogan putting it under pressure?

Watching some of the election coverage and debates, and just the odd conversation I've had, I think it might be.

"Delivering for New Zealanders" is a quite a claim to make. It says that National's done good work and will keep on delivering, like a waiter at a tapas bar. The plates of food keep coming out and everyone has a cheery glow.

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Except maybe you don't feel like you're being delivered to. You're not in a fancy restaurant with expensive food and fine wines. Actually, you're outside in the cold looking through the window at other people having a good time.

Many New Zealanders must be feeling a bit like that when they see one of National's billboards. If you've no hope of buying a house and are paying exorbitant rent for a cold, damp, dump of a place, you might think that what's been delivered kind of sucks.

If you're one of the hundreds of thousands of workers earning poverty wages you might not believe that this is the best of times.

"Delivering for New Zealanders" raises the question about whether National is actually doing so. This is gifting great ammunition to opposition parties.

Even core National voters would have a hard time defending the truth of the slogan. The homeless, the desperately lost, are all too visible on our streets.

The generation who are being locked out of home ownership might include a son, a daughter, a grandchild.

And no one can ignore the heartbreaking stories of youth suicide and the extreme social alienation it represents.

Tellingly, the National Party hardly believes its own slogan. Each time I've seen a Government MP use it, and that includes Bill English, they've failed to sound convincing.


The latest occasion was Judith Collins on Backbenches. She dutifully delivered the slogan and it immediately died on her lips. The opposition MPs on the show and most of the audience scoffed.

Whatever the result of the upcoming election, and National may still govern with the help of Winston Peters, there's a momentum shift towards the left. And National knows it, which is why its not promising more tax cuts that mostly end up benefiting the rich.

It's why it modestly raised benefit levels last year. The first time benefit levels had been increased (above the official inflation rate) since being slashed by Jim Bolger's National government in 1991.

And after doing all it could to ignore the problem for most of three terms, National has finally conceded it has to do something about the housing crisis.

Part of this is simple self-preservation. National risks losing a generation or two of voters to opposition parties, that's a prospect the party leadership is starting to wake up to.

After a period of bland non-politics, which characterised both the Helen Clark and John Key years, a growing majority of people in this country want action on child poverty, inequality, public transport, housing market failure and environmental degradation, including joining the international effort to mitigate global warming.

Politics is getting interesting again, and none of us is going to be able to comfortably sit on the fence.

■ Vaughan Gunson is a writer and poet interested in social justice and big issues facing the planet.