Mandy Hager’s Column

mandy author at desk jan 2010National’s PR is ‘bloody good’ — Labour needs to raise its game

 By Mandy Hager

I’ve been listening very hard to the messages coming from National as a clue to what they’re going to push in the coming election.

I have to hand it to them; their expensive PR advice is really bloody good.

Two things come consistently from the mouths of John Key and his top rank: that they have done a good job lifting the economy – we’re ‘safe’ hands.

And then, straight after that, any number of mix-and-match attacks on the Opposition, always making sure he talks about a ‘Labour-Green’ government, and always ending with a little RadioLive sound-bite disparaging the Greens and calling them loony (or some other carefully scripted insult.)

Strange thing is, nobody I know thinks the economy is going swimmingly. People are hurting, juggling massive bills, worrying about mortgages and rent, food prices, power bills, trips to the doctor.

Long hours on minimum wages

Many are stuck in jobs they hate because they can’t afford to leave, and just as many have no job and no hope of getting one, or work long hours at minimum wage.

All the indexes that look at well-being show we’re going backwards. Oh, but guess what? John Key and his ilk are doing very nicely, thank you.

No wonder they can talk about the economy with such religious fervour: they have designed it to take the wealth of the many and hold it close. Words can’t express how much I despise this.

And Labour, oh dear, dear (read wry head-shaking), just keep walking into the same old traps. Someone has to convince them they have to make a stand — stop trying to seduce the wealthy and re-commit to their roots.

Just this week David Cunliffe straddled another fence, saying they wouldn’t rule out deep sea oil exploration. Dumb and so very disappointing,

David. If you’re trying to grab some votes then aim for your own natural voters — the Right don’t trust you anyhow (though nor do the Left entirely, and this kind of smoke and mirrors talk doesn’t help.)

‘Be brave’

Why not be brave, and actually admit that the Green Party have some very strong policies and ideals, most of which sit very well with traditional Labour values? Be brave!

Put your hand up and say ‘Yes! We can form a government based on social values with these people — and we’re going to honour the environment at the same time, what’s wrong with that?’

Instead, every time Mr Key dog-whistles about the loony Greens or the Labour-Greens, what he’s doing is trying to scare the shit out of the growing number of swing voters (or non-voters), many in the lower economic bands, who have suddenly realised he doesn’t give a toss about them.

I’m not saying the Greens are perfect, or don’t have a few loose canons of their own.

But I hear a lot more principled debate coming out of their spokespeople’s mouths (though not all) than any other party — perhaps with the exception of Hone Harawira.

When I talk to my children about politics (and it’s surprising how often it comes up) they tell me how many of their friends don’t bother to vote.

Maybe they’d perk up if more of our politicians cared as honestly and passionately for their constituents as Hone does.

I’m sick of listening to people tell lies for their own gain.