In his DomPost column this morning, Chris Trotter poses the question, “Let’s just assume, for a moment, that the polls are right, and Labour is doomed. What does that say about the condition of the New Zealand electorate in 2008?”
He speculates that the current polling means that most of the electorate sees “the fifth Labour Government as being worse than the fourth” and Clark and Cullen as more destructive and incompetent than their predecessors.
Gloomy as. And quite wrong. For a start, many people agree with me when I propose that the first two terms of this government were the best in our adult lifetimes if not longer. It’s just that much of what was acheived has been banked by the punters. (Also, the 4th Labour Government was turfed out at the end of its second term, and emphatically. Trotter can join John Key at the back of the history class.)
A problem with these polls is that they don’t tell us about the motivations people have for answering the pollsters’ questions as they do, or about how strongly these voting intentions are held.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the polls don’t reflect a repudiation of Labour and its allies, but rather a feeling that it’s time for a change. Fresh faces, new ideas. Also, Clark and co are perceived in some quarters as increasingly arrogant, and I’ve pointed out a few salient examples in recent posts.
Trotter advances a couple of reasons for the polls. First, a taxi driver in Dunedin suggested that, “The trouble with this government is that it’s always telling us what to do.” Drawing on a visiting Swiss politician’s thoughts on the meaning of democracy, “The discussion is the democracy”, Trotter implies that there has been too much imposition of policy on an unconvinced populace — anti-smacking laws and the EFA come to mind — without first carrying popular feeling.
This is pretty much what I argued here a couple of weeks ago.
Back in Auckland, another taxi driver lamented the differences with his Iraqi homeland, where, “we were always together.” Here, by contrast, we are always alone. I’m still pondering this last point. It’s almost existential.
Instead of this gloomy introspection, we should start thinking about the opportunities for bipartisanship in the event of a change of government, and I intend to post on that next week
Lastly, I’m left wondering though why New Zealand’s foremost political commentator should be relying on taxi drivers when he can draw on the savvy banter at Galbraiths. Which reminds me, it’s Friday evening…