Back in 2005, Labour’s slogan was “Don’t put it all at risk”. Fast forward to 2014, and National’s is essentially the same. The party’s first TV ad of the campaign is out, telling us to “keep the team that’s working”, as a sleek, well-oiled rowing crew cuts cleanly through the water. The opposition crew is briefly shown; an array of red and green rowers, with one numpty in purple, and the boat trying to go in two directions at once.
It’s a good ad: National’s team is portrayed as winners, and people like backing winners; the water looks pristine, reminding us of our country’s clean, green image (just don’t think too hard about National’s somewhat lacklustre stance on clean rivers…); we see a list of all the OECD countries we’re doing better than. Slightly off-putting though is the similarity of the backing track’s baseline to Eminem’s Lose Yourself, from the Eight Mile soundtrack…
The ad has been criticised for a lack of focus on policy. It tells us what National has done, not what they’re going to do. But there’s a reason for that. National hasn’t yet had it’s campaign launch – that comes on Sunday.
National would have had a strategy, planned out long ago, of coasting for two weeks on good headlines and high polling, taking swipes at whatever opposition policy was announced, and then putting the foot on the gas for the campaign launch. Announce a big policy or two on the 24th, overshadow Labour, and keep talking up the positive record and drip-feeding policy through to election day. The first election ad wasn’t meant to need any policy.
Of course, nobody planned for the release of Dirty Politics, which has kept National hopelessly on the back foot for the past week, fighting an endless outbreak of fires. They won’t want to rush the release of policy, and mess up their timetable, which means the strategy is simple – endure the remains of this week and hope that the fires begin to die down, put on a good show on Sunday and hope the media are ready to focus on policy, start rolling out the policy, and hope it won’t be long before Labour does something stupid themselves.
Unfortunately for National, the Labour Party caucus have been remarkably disciplined lately. Thanks to Dirty Politics, they can see a genuine possibility of grabbing the Government benches in one month. Nothing unifies the ill-disciplined like the sweet scent of success. Nonetheless, if there’s no immediate bounce in the polls, there’s every possibility that things will turn feral again in the Labour camp, which is what National will be hoping and praying for.
And so everyone waits for the next round of polls…