For nearly 3 weeks, there was an astonishing calm on the battle front. Politicians went about their campaigning. Policies were released and countered. Debates were held and the respect seemed mutual. But then came a political poll: Labour had leap frogged over National and suddenly the incumbents were in grave danger of losing. Time to mobilize the foot soldiers, unlock the munition dumps with their array of mud.
Over the last few days, the barometer has really dropped on National’s election campaigning. As it has progressed the campaign started cleanly with National and Labour trading blows over policy. But in the last few days it has been steadily falling with a barrage of increasingly desperate, outdated and sometimes blatantly ridiculous attack adverts.
National’s campaign smacks of the desperation of a party that knows it is in trouble with voters. When the campaign harks back to desperate tactics used in the 2002 General Election – which makes it all the more surprising given 27 July 2002 was National’s darkest day, with a paltry 27 seats left to them in the new Parliament – what is it telling you about their general strategy?
Among the gimmicks have been the revival of the fart tax attack ads, suggesting that Labour is going to tax cows farting. Aside from forgetting some basic biology that most people who paid attention at high school would have learnt that cows also belch, National have had nine (9) years to introduce measures to deal with the methane discharge. They have had this time in which they could have worked with farmers to get them on grass that was promised would reduce emissions. National have had time to get farmers onto more sustainable modes of farming than dairying, which has peaked, contrary to what they or Federated Farmers will tell you.
Another attack is more recent, but just misguided and perhaps even more discredited. A week ago National attacked Labour over an alleged N.Z.$11.7 billion hole in their financial plan for New Zealand. Not only was it totally discredited by numerous accountants, and by BERL, who costed the plan, even National Party members began criticizing Treasurer Steven Joyce for continuing to harp on about it.
I suppose at some point the campaign was going to get dirty. The 2014, 2011, 2008 and 2005 campaigns were all shades of poo rather than the colours of any of New Zealand’s political parties. The 2002 campaign had the Painter-Gate incident. 2005 was rocked by the Exclusive Brethren claims and eventually the funding scandal that saw various political parties use funding that they were not entitled to – and be made to pay it back.
The 2008 one saw A.C.T. and New Zealand First engaged in mortal combat, which stemmed from allegations surrounding donations made to the party – which was cleared of any wrong doing, but not before exiting Parliament in the election that year. In 2014 the journalist Nicky Hager released a book called Dirty Politics, regarding the . It was also the election where Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party aligned themselves in an ill-fated alliance with Hone Harawira’s Mana Party that split the left vote when it was most needed.
The mud slinging is in its early days yet, but both sides have a stockpile of it that they had been – correctly – hoping to avoid having to use. Unfortunately the Young Nats fired the first shots and so now they and their heroes can reap what they sowed.