Consider the past two years. We’ve had Covid and floods and $7 cabbages. Haven’t we had enough fear? Now we have “attack politics”, courtesy of the Council of Trade Unions. There, looming on billboards and videos and a front page wrap-around on the New Zealand Herald – plus a full-page ad inside – was the mug of National leader Christopher Luxon. He was supposed to look vaguely evil, like a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Uncle Fester from the Addams family.
“Out of touch. Too much risk.” Ouch. Not really. The CTU needs to get snappier slogan writers.
Nasty and pathetic, said the National Party’s campaign manager, Chris Bishop. The Nats are being thin-skinned, said Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. And no, of course he had no foreknowledge of the ads. Bishop was asked how Uncle Fester, oops, Luxon was “holding up” against such a personal attack. “Look, he’s big enough and ugly enough to handle it,” he said. As endorsements go, that wasn’t much better than the CTU’s.
Tough times require tough guys, man. Hipkins’ “thin-skinned” is meant to imply that Luxon is not a tough guy and that Hipkins is a thick-skinned tough guy who could withstand being called names.
National will not stoop to such nasty measures. “I think I’m modelling out a very positive campaign,” said Luxon. Which gives rise to an image of the Leader of the Opposition sitting in his shed making model planes out of balsa wood and chucking them at Hipkins.
Bishop assured the country, “We are not going to be making personal jibes and attacks on Chris Hipkins and other senior members of the Labour Party in our attack ads.” Okay. So the Nats will be unleashing attack ads, which, apparently, are perfectly fine as long as they don’t portray Hipkins as a menace. He does look rather like Dennis the Menace. An attack-ad consultant would charge big bucks for that genius suggestion.
Attack ads are the political equivalent of unguided missiles in a phoney sort of war. It’s all about as riveting as watching a scrap between a couple of spreadsheets – which is where the real action, if you could call it action, actually is.
The “Your figures don’t add up”, “No, your figures don’t add up” spat continues to bore the nation and its calculators. The latest withered, GST-free carrot to be dangled is National’s foreign buyers tax, calculated to raise, on average, $740 million a year – which would contribute towards tax cuts for the “squeezed middle”, and there’s an ugly phrase if ever there was one. Economist Shamubeel Eaqub told Newshub: “Oh, I mean those numbers are just bullshit, to be honest.”
This enthusiastic endorsement was immediately and gleefully posted on social media by the Finance Minister, Grant Robertson. Nicola Willis, the shadow finance minister, who seldom gets shirty, did get a bit shirty on RNZ National when reminded that she would get an extra 80 bucks a week under her own tax plan. Her parliamentary salary is over $200,000, but it wasn’t about her. It might not be about those of us squeezed like giant tubes of toothpaste, either, according to Eaqub, whose new nickname should be the bullshit detector.
Don’t stand too close
Bring on the debates. No. Please. Don’t. To spice things up, National could insert its MP for Waikato, Tim “the Loomer” van de Molen, into a debate. He was ticked off by Parliament’s privileges committee for threatening behaviour towards Labour’s Shanan Halbert after a select committee meeting.
This included standing too close to Halbert. So, instead of sending Luxon out to utter his endless bromides, they could send van de Molen to loom over Hipkins like Donald Trump did in that stomach-churning 2016 presidential debate with Hillary Clinton.
Labour might similarly employ the head of the CTU, Richard Wagstaff, to hold up a placard saying, as Bishop reckons, that “Luxon is Big and Ugly! Enough!”
Actually, there has already been a debate, but it was more of a comedy show than a debate.
Almost anything involving Act leader David Seymour turns into a comedy show. His latest musings, made at a Business NZ event in Wellington, involved New Zealand’s most famous suffragette, Kate Sheppard. She would, claimed Seymour, likely have voted Act.
The Greens’ Julie Anne Genter put her head in her hands. Willis just about managed not to smirk. Robertson was heard to mutter: “I’m not so sure about that.”
But hang on. Seymour had another random thought. Sheppard was also for the prohibition of alcohol. So, maybe she wouldn’t have voted for Act after all but might have voted for the Greens, the wowsers. Seymour knows a thing or two about not being a wowser. He once said he was “18% Heineken”.
Now, Seymour hardly drinks. Is he a wowser? Is being a wowser a crime against libertarianism? Probably. Wowsers equal woke. Being woke is definitely a crime against libertarianism. Would Kate Sheppard have put her head in her hands? Almost certainly.
Where does this stream-of-consciousness silliness come from? From that comedy show script that is constantly streaming inside his ever-busy brain, presumably.
He’s always having his fantasy notions. Sending Guy Fawkes into the Ministry for Pacific Peoples is one. That Nelson Mandela, if alive today, would likely be out there campaigning for Act is another.
One suspects that Seymour, a contrarian libertarian by trade, simply can’t help himself. For him, trolling the woke, snow-flakey, social justice wowsers is the best way to spend a day.
But it’s hard not to love his flights of fancy. Here’s another one: Hey, David, Kate Sheppard just called. She wants to hand back her right to vote.
Roll out your dead
Labour and National had their campaign launches last weekend. These were even less exciting than a debate.
At campaign launches you roll out your dead. Labour rolled out Helen Clark. If former PM Jacinda Ardern, who is now the invisible former PM, was there, she certainly wasn’t centre stage. Quite right, too. You don’t want the former PM, voted for a time as Most Popular Girl, stealing the limelight at your prom party.
At National’s launch, Luxon pinched the Pledge Card stunt from Clark’s Labour government, who had pinched it from Tony Blair’s 1997 UK election campaign.
Meanwhile, Labour offered free dental care for the under-30s. Could they also pledge to get us all one of those mouthguard things to stop us all grinding our teeth from now until election day? Please.