Monday, June 08, 2020

On political capital

Over the weekend, Green co-leader James Shaw gave an interview where he expressed disappointment that Labour hadn't spent more political capital than they had. Stuff's Andrea Vance has followed that up with an opinion piece asking "what good is popularity if you fail to do anything with it?" arguing that Labour basicly wasted its honeymoon. I'd go stronger than that. Because if you can remember back to before (gestures vaguely) all this happened, Labour's re-election was looking uncertain. Unless something big changed, they were on track to be a one-term government. And they were headed in that direction precisely because they had repeatedly refused to spend their political capital, repeatedly refused to provide any real policy payoff that would remind their voters that they were worth voting for. They had become a government of disappointment, who had left their supports disillusioned.

We've since been reminded that government matters, that who is in charge matters, and Ardern's stellar response in a crisis has left her and her government one of the most popular in New Zealand history. It seems almost certain they will be re-elected in September, probably in a landslide. Which invites the question: will Ardern actually do anything with that popularity this time? Or will she waste it - again - and simply collect a fat salary for presiding over an unjust and unequal status quo? And if its going to be the latter, why should anyone vote for her?