Imagine when even Facebook and the International Monetary Fund turns against you. That's what happened to poor Simon last week. Just a few days after he dog whistled out that "Everyday New Zealanders" didn't care about the Christchurch Call and that it was a "talkfest" that achieved nothing, Facebook went ahead and announced that it was making some policy changes, largely because of the Christchurch Call.
This didn't stop him from going on RNZ and contorting himself in knots by both praising Facebook's decision in relation to the Christchurch Call while saying the call would still achieve nothing unless the US Government came on board.
But that's ok. He had good old neoliberal criticisms of Labour's inability to handle the economy to fall back on. Except then our GDP figures came out and we were steady-as-she goes with growth, exceeding a lot of other western countries, or as Simon might call them, "Everyday" countries. And then the International Monetary Fund said our economy was going pretty good. Hell it even praised the Wellbeing Budget.
Labour being a bit rubbish at the economy is National's bread and butter criticism. Everyday New Zealanders seem to have it in-baked into our political perceptions that left-of-centre parties are not good with the economy, and right-of-centre parties are. This is all kinds of dumb for many reasons. Firstly, history does not support it. And secondly and more importantly, the way in which we define being "good at the economy" is stupid and anti-people. It focuses on metrics like GDP growth, and IMF and credit ratings by suspicious corporations rather than giving everyone a fair and equitable chance at living their best lives.
We shouldn't be surprised when Labour does ok with economic indicators, and yet Everyday Experts constantly are. Expectations for GDP growth were lower than what came out and recently expectations for unemployment were considerably higher than what came out.
And it's not just Everyday Experts who get surprised, Everyday New Zealanders are convinced that the economy is tanking. According to some polling, people think the economy is as bad right now as it was during the GFC. This is absurd, especially given that our unemployment rate hit 6.5 per cent versus the 3.9 it currently is. And our GDP actually shrunk for five successive quarters versus consistent growth since Labour got in.
Perhaps it's not that Labour is a bit rubbish at the economy, but instead is a bit rubbish at talking about the economy. Labour hasn't convinced Everyday New Zealanders that actually they got this. Personally I'm not yet convinced they do, because to me it's great that our unemployment rate is 3.9 per cent, but there are still 109,000 people who want to work and can't find anything. GDP growth is well above what it was during the GFC and is leading many of our trading partners, including Australia, but there are also a whole lot of human beings living rough on the streets, or not being able to afford to feed their families or are provided welfare from the State to survive at an amount that is specifically designed to not let them do that.
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But I don't think that National and Simon Bridges are criticising Labour's economic abilities from a left-wing perspective. I'd welcome it if they were, join me comrade! However their comments all focus on tax cuts and building roads as being these incredible panaceas to economic downturns, and they're borderline obsessive. Seriously National, you are obsessed with roads. It's like you want to marry them.
If Labour does want to convince us that it's a good economic manager then we need to see it. We can't grasp a graph, but we can see a housing development being built, or a factory opening and providing jobs in an area that was previously pretty dire. The headline numbers may be indicators that the economy is doing well but people are more persuaded by what they can see and hear in their day to day lives. Besides, if you really wanted to get those headline numbers showing a thriving economy you'd just give beneficiaries more money.
After Simon was made to look as ridiculous as he deserved over his Christchurch Call comments, and the economy was praised by experts around the world, National resorted to making a mocking video of Labour MP Deborah Russell in parliament using Greek terms from her time as a philosophy lecturer. We deserve a better opposition than that, because it's not Everyday Kiwis' faults that National can't understand long words.
• David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green parties and interned for Bill English while studying.