Today in an interview [audio] with Radio New Zealnd's Brent Edwards, Helen Clark complained about the National Party's use of extreme rhetoric in its attacks on Labour. She then launched into an outright attack on National Party leader Don Brash:
Labour regards Doctor Brash as a corrosive and cancerous person within the New Zealand political system. From the time he became National party leader, he started his polarising, extreme attacks and behaviour. He tried to divide New Zealand down the middle on race relations issues. He was prepared to stoop to involve the extreme moral right in an election campaign. He has thrown around words and language which are simply unacceptable and have no place in the New Zealand body politic, and it is very hard to deal with such a person.
All of which is basically true. But "cancerous"? You can hardly complain about "extreme rhetoric" when you go around using language like that. Clark would no doubt hide behind the principle of "you give it out, you get it back" - and National has given out plenty over the last few months. But if the aim is to calm the political atmosphere and prevent a further degeneration of politics into new depths of viciousness, this isn't going to help.
Unfortunately, we're likely to see more of this. With Parliament basically deadlocked and neither major party able to enact substantive policy, frustration levels are rising. And as Chris Trotter pointed out back in March, this leaves them little to do other than tear strips off one another. Barring a major political realignment (which I really don't see happening), they're just going to continue to bite and savage and claw at one another for the next two years. And they wonder why politicians are held in such low regard...