Four more sleeps and this execrable election campaign will be over. Thank goodness.
It was the Prime Minister who called it the 'Covid Campaign,' a good move on her and Labour's part. It is to their great advantage to play on the genuine fear that seems to exist over a fresh, major outbreak of the virus, and suggesting that only Labour can save us has successfully avoided any temptation, by the media at least, to consider what the party promised three years ago and how spectacularly it has failed to deliver on almost every front.
Election campaigns should be about considering what the incumbent party has achieved and undertakes, credibly, to achieve in the future. This one has been all about keeping us safe.
There has been some discussion about closing the borders and the damage that is doing to people's livelihoods and futures, but not much, and very little about the ad hoc nature of many of the decisions made thus far. Even last week's story about a British couple who want to sail their yacht here and sell it so they can go home sank with barely a ripple.
They are currently stuck in French Polynesia, living aboard the boat that reminds them every waking moment of the death of their 14-year-old son, who was struck by a jetboat while checking the anchor.
The government's official line is that exemptions may be granted to yachties who want to come here on humanitarian grounds, but just what such grounds might be is a mystery. This family is certainly struggling to understand, especially after it was revealed that superyacht owners and crews can be exempted if they promise to spend $50,000 or more while they're here.
Now we are told that the billionaire owners of America's Cup teams could be deemed 'critical workers,' and therefore entitled to apply for exemptions, while little progress seems to have been made on meeting the needs of employers who are desperately trying to get skilled staff from overseas. There is no rhyme nor reason to these decisions, apart from the obvious one, that money talks. Even then, a cracker of a strawberry season, which now seems unlikely thanks to a lack of pickers, would surely be worth a superyacht or two.
ACT leader David Seymour is one of many who have claimed that border exemptions are for the few, not the many, with 'critical worker' exemptions for international rugby players, Hollywood movie stars and now billionaire owners of America's Cup teams, but not for RSE workers, fishermen and international students. He has accused Labour of pandering to the elite, while rank and file business owners are going bust.
He also poured scorn on Labour's promise to think about allowing employers to bring skilled workers into the country if it is re-elected, to no apparent avail.
These things should have been discussed during this campaign, but haven't been. Nor has much else of substance.
There is no shortage of policies to pick from, but the average voter will be working hard to find out what they are. We understand the broad thrust - National wants to reduce income tax, ACT wants to reduce GST temporarily and the Greens want to impose yet more taxes on the 'rich,' but the finer detail, which, one way or another, we are all going to have to live with for the next three years, is slipping by largely unnoticed.
Green co-leader James Shaw made a remarkable statement last week, to the effect that election campaigns do not allow time for any real discussion about policies. What else are they for?
This one seems to have been about party leaders' celebrity status. We probably got our first taste of that with the advent of John Key, but now it's really taken hold. Increasingly we are being invited to choose our Prime Minister on the basis of their ability to sell women's magazines, not where they are planning to take the country.
Thus the big issues last week included whether Judith Collins was politicising her faith when she was photographed praying in the church where she had gone to vote. She had been invited by the vicar to have a quiet word, she said, and accepted. Praying, she said, was a daily ritual for her. She did not invite the media to follow her, or to take or publish her photo. Yet she was portrayed as using her religion as a political tool.
That would have been ill-advised. We have reached the point in this country where any kind of religious belief, certainly Christianity, is more of a liability than an asset. Much better, for political purposes, to be an atheist.
Collins was also accused of stacking the crowd in Auckland's Ponsonby Rd with party faithful to ensure her walkabout didn't turn into a solitary stroll. One assumes that every party makes sure that the local branch knows when their leader is visiting, but that didn't stop TVNZ from describing it as "Dumb, dumb, dumb."
And she was turned away from an optometrist's shop. No one who reported on that 'incident' bothered to ask why she hadn't been made welcome. If they had they would have been told that it was Collins' entourage, including the media, that put them off, and the fact that the staff didn't want to appear on television. Never let a couple of quick questions ruin a good story.
The big issue really should be the next government's response to Covid-19, not only in terms of continuing to protect us from a fresh outbreak but how we are going to come out the other side. It could be argued that we have been conditioned to put the second part of that equation on hold while we deal with the first, and the media can take a large chunk of the blame for that.
It's long been said that people vote for their back pockets, and that many make up their minds within six weeks of polling day. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this time we are voting blind, and largely out of fear.
Then there is the lunatic fringe, which seems to be thriving, and again we should be debating some of the promises from that end of the spectrum more than we have been. Issues like a liveable income for every New Zealander without having to get out of bed merit serious examination. The way we're going, policies like this could become reality by default.
The Māori Party is relying on the concept that its constituents are victims - John Tamihere reckons Māori kids who go to low decile schools are stuffed before they start, which might come as news to a lot of such kids, who are doing very nicely thank you without dwelling on the myth that the higher the decile the better the education - and NZ First just keeps splashing the cash.
Shane Jones wasn't quite as open to criticism over last week's $96 million for marae as some thought; the funding was actually announced some time ago. On Friday he just gave us the detail. A good case can be made for the funding, but questions over the timing are not unreasonable though. NZ First has changed the process from one of making promises to writing out cheques, even after voting has started.
Critics have genuine grounds for complaining that taxpayer money is being used as a campaign tool by government parties, but at least it's almost over. And whatever happens, this will be a very different country in 2023, when hopefully the issues will be the deciding factor. For now, the only consoling thought is that promises will mean nothing when coalition talks start. If they need to.