Monday, May 11, 2020

Hubris invites nemesis

On Friday, the government proactively released a huge amount of information about its handling of the pandemic. While journalists were rightly cynical about the timing - even in a crisis, the habits of government PR flacks die hard - and there were some notable omissions (everything on contact-tracing apps has been omitted or redacted), the documents were a welcome and entirely voluntary move towards transparency. And they paint the picture we'd expect: of a government acting quickly and generally sensibly in a crisis. Its the sort of measure which should boost public confidence and trust. Except that the government then ruined it all when it was revealed that Ministers had been ordered not to talk about any of it, that their performance was so great that they didn't need to defend or even explain it, and that they should dismiss all inquiries because the public loved them so much.

This is simply arrogant. Yes, the government has done a good job (and I say that despite sharing concerns about the legality of the lockdown). But that does not absolve them of the duty to be accountable to the public for it. We're a democratic country, and that means the government works for us, and they have an obligation to front up and talk to the media about what they're doing.

But its also stupid, because kiwis hate arrogance. And we will happily punish it at the ballot box. It would be terrible if the government which has just saved us was driven out of of the Beehive in September because voters didn't like its attitude. But that is what Labour is inviting. Hopefully they'll learn this lesson, show a little humility, and remember who they work for.