Stardust yet to settle, so Nats start talking down Labour’s leader

Meredith Akuhata Brown

EDITORIAL

The fight back began for National at its campaign launch yesterday, in which a major policy announcement on education was overshadowed by the continuing personality aspect to this election.

Just four weeks ago National was sleep-walking to victory on September 23, when Jacinda Ardern’s rise to leader of the Labour Party hit them with the same sort of impact that Hurricane Harvey has hit Houston.

It is history now that Labour has surged in the polls, mostly at the expense of a seriously weakened Green Party, and Ardern is virtually level with Bill English as the most preferred prime minister.

National’s tactic at first was to wait for the stardust to settle. That has not happened yet and with less than four weeks to the poll that matters, the party took the first tentative steps yesterday to attack Ardern through two of their women MPs.

Snippily making the point that she had twice defeated Ardern in the Auckland Central seat, Nikki Kaye said National was more than one person. Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett built on that theme, saying there was more to National than selfies and smiles.

This may not be the wisest tactic. Ardern is personally very popular and many voters will not appreciate anything that looks a personal attack on her.

A better tactic could be to emphasise the gap in experience between Ardern and Bill English. It was telling that in the latest NZ Herald poll, he was seen as more capable by 45 percent to 32 percent for Ardern.

National would be wise to bill itself as the party of stability, led by a man who deserves much of the credit for guiding New Zealand through the great financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. That would strike a chord with its core vote of men and older people.

Then there is the Winston Peters’ factor. If he stays as king or queenmaker it poses the question, who is better equipped to deal with him?

The only certainty is that there will be more twists in this election, which is the most exciting and difficult to predict since the MMP voting system was introduced in 1996.

The fight back began for National at its campaign launch yesterday, in which a major policy announcement on education was overshadowed by the continuing personality aspect to this election.

Just four weeks ago National was sleep-walking to victory on September 23, when Jacinda Ardern’s rise to leader of the Labour Party hit them with the same sort of impact that Hurricane Harvey has hit Houston.

It is history now that Labour has surged in the polls, mostly at the expense of a seriously weakened Green Party, and Ardern is virtually level with Bill English as the most preferred prime minister.

National’s tactic at first was to wait for the stardust to settle. That has not happened yet and with less than four weeks to the poll that matters, the party took the first tentative steps yesterday to attack Ardern through two of their women MPs.

Snippily making the point that she had twice defeated Ardern in the Auckland Central seat, Nikki Kaye said National was more than one person. Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett built on that theme, saying there was more to National than selfies and smiles.

This may not be the wisest tactic. Ardern is personally very popular and many voters will not appreciate anything that looks a personal attack on her.

A better tactic could be to emphasise the gap in experience between Ardern and Bill English. It was telling that in the latest NZ Herald poll, he was seen as more capable by 45 percent to 32 percent for Ardern.

National would be wise to bill itself as the party of stability, led by a man who deserves much of the credit for guiding New Zealand through the great financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. That would strike a chord with its core vote of men and older people.

Then there is the Winston Peters’ factor. If he stays as king or queenmaker it poses the question, who is better equipped to deal with him?

The only certainty is that there will be more twists in this election, which is the most exciting and difficult to predict since the MMP voting system was introduced in 1996.

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