Just before I started in the Parliamentary Press Gallery 13 years ago, a veteran dispensed some advice.
It was to take the contrary view to everybody else on any given topic, and there would be a 50 per cent chance of being in the right.
This person was admittedly someone of inconsistent wisdom, but this advice sees me now defending National Party leader Simon Bridges' response to the Government's Covid-19 package.
Whenever somebody argues that there should be "unity" and no criticism from the media or the Opposition, it brings to mind the days after the Pike River Mine disaster.
Then there was a similar approach to the mine management during the press conferences: that it was not the time for criticism or hard questions, but for support. Peter Whittall was the good guy.
The ones asking hard questions in those press conferences were the Australian journalists. It transpired those journalists were right all along.
Now a similar sentiment seems to exist over Covid-19.
Bridges has been hung, drawn and quartered for criticising the pace and scale of the Government's response, for calling for more testing, and for his response to Finance Minister Grant Robertson's $12.1 billion mix of wage subsidies, business tax relief and benefit increases.
Bridges' speech in Parliament on the latter was much less measured than his press release.
He did agree with the wage-subsidy package but did not believe it went far enough, especially for companies with more than 25 staff.
The bit he did not agree with – at least, not insofar as it was included in the Covid-19 related package – was the $25 a week boost to benefits.
This, he argued was Labour caving in to its "pet priorities" rather than the issue it had set out to address: protecting business and jobs.
He added that the benefit announcement was unnecessary, and included simply to make the package look more generous than it actually was.
There was certainly much suspicion the increase was already planned for the pre-coronavirus Budget, and brought forward purely because the PM had promised the
"most significant" package she would produce in her time as leader.
A $9b package wouldn't quite cut it. As somebody wryly observed, it was not the first time an announcement had to be "retro-fitted" because of a Prime Minister's public utterances.
Opposition parties are always in a difficult position at such times and of course there is a political component to Bridges' ranting.
Bridges wants voters to think National would deal with the crisis better than Labour.
To simply endorse Labour's rescue package would also risk sending the message that Labour was making as good a fist of it as National would have.
Beyond these political considerations, it is legitimate for an opposition party to question a government's actions in times of crisis.
The mosque attacks are one of the rare cases when political unity was warranted.
But a major health and economic crisis requires stress-testing.
That does not mean it will play well publicly. As a general rule, voters do not like negative Neddies.
It did not work out well for Labour when they took swipes at National over its decisions after the Christchurch earthquakes or the Global Financial Crisis.
But they were right to challenge issues affecting New Zealand.
Bridges is not the only one with political considerations in mind, although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is much more subtle about it and given much more leeway.
Ardern has repeatedly accused Bridges of "politics as usual", a claim aimed at dismissing Bridges' arguments as pure politicking rather than genuine issues.
She has also made much about offering briefings to Bridges. Yet little attempt has been made to get National's input into the response, and only one briefing was forthcoming.
While Grant Robertson said there was no textbook for dealing with the current crisis, there was certainly was a textbook for the political handling of it.
What Labour is now saying is exactly how former PM Sir John Key handled the messaging around the Global Financial Crisis. That was to give an unstinting warning that the very worst could happen, emphasise there was no way to avoid it and then promise to do everything possible to mitigate the fallout.
Key talked about the Global Financial Crisis as if it was a virus, saying New Zealand was "not immune". His catchphrase was that government was focused on "taking the rough edges off". He repeated this over and over again, when holding and then raising benefits, and about those worried about losing their jobs.
Robertson's equivalent is "reduce the blow".
It is all about managing expectations. The hope is that, come election time, voters will trust in that government's response enough to opt for stability rather than change when everything else is uncertain.
All the good economic indicators Labour was boasting about as it headed into the election are now mere dust and dreams. The unemployment rate, low debt, consistent GDP growth are all now mirages.
It is safe to assume that the Budget which Labour had hoped to pass is now in the shredder. The definition of "wellbeing" will now be somewhat different and "change" may no longer be affordable.
No government likes to have to abandon policy promises or election-year goodie-bags.
But when the economy is in dire straits and livelihoods in danger, putting up sweeteners is a turn off for voters rather than an enticement.
Bill English managed to make a political virtue out of miserliness and Labour now faces the same.
Labour is justified in boosting support for beneficiaries, and those on low wages.
But other things on its to-do list are now luxury items – including the "fees-free" policy and universal payments for those with newborn babies.
National is not the only party that will be punished if it opts for politics as usual.