Posts Tagged ‘Colin James’

“The bland leading the bland”

July 29, 2008

Colin James in today’s Herald rues the caution and blandness that is the Leader of the Opposition today. He asks us to “consider John Key, the trader who used to back himself and made a whizz-bang fortune at it. Where has he gone?”

James suspects that this is the product of marketing. I’d say that it is out and out manipulation of the electorate.

More importantly, James ruminates on the tensions between the Labour-lite policies that we have seen in many areas and the vague promises of economic step-change and closing the gap with Australia. On the latter, apart from universal fast broadband all we have is an indication that National “will promise bigger science… Oh, and tax cuts and lighter regulation. And ‘ambition’.”

(In passing, I await the bigger science policy with interest, as this vital driver of growth has been neglected by governments of all stripes.)

James also reveals that in the major policy areas:

“… in behind the bland one-pagers lies quite a lot of study, consultation with outsiders and internal shadow cabinet debate. A 34-page paper backed the workplace relations one-pager. Law and order policy was well footnoted.”

Even Farrar agrees that the one-pagers we are being feed don’t provide enough detail. He says that 1 per cent of the population wants the detail, but doesn’t say who these people are. I’d say that it’s more than that, and includes the opinion leaders who many of the others will rely upon to look at the detail and pass judgement.

I’m really pleased to hear that there’s more work behind these policies than appears on the surface. But why then do so many important points in the workplace relations, arts and other policies beg clarification? Why, for example, did we have National’s broadcasting spokesperson confirming on media7 that funding for Maori TV and Radio NZ would be maintained?

And if you’re going to release stuff on one side of A4, why not have a press conference so that these things can be clarified on the spot?

If you have pretentions to running the country, then at least act professionally when it comes to releasing policy. At the moment it looks very amateurish, as well as bland.

Update (hat-tip The Standard): Seems that National doesn’t have detailed policy analysis to back up the scraps of paper we’ve been served up. (Why don’t they just hand over the envelopes with their policies on the back?) Colin Espiner reveals:

“Unfortunately, it appears James didn’t get it quite right – at least according to John Key’s office, which has just told me that there is NO 34-page policy document on industrial relations. It is, in fact, a 14-page document that simply backgrounds previous changes in industrial law, according to Key’s office.

Even Espiner, who features in The Hollow Men as probably the most enthusiastic messenger for the right in 2005, finds this galling:

“I’m unsure whether this is supposed to make me feel better or not. Personally I would have been happier to know that National had done more work in this area, even if it wouldn’t release it.”