HEATHER du PLESSIS-ALLAN
Well, that didn’t take long. Two weeks and the paint has started to chip off the new Government. After a couple of moments of questionable truthfulness over the last week, the new mob are starting to look a lot more like the last lot, where truthfulness wasn’t a high priority.
The most audacious bout of Labour’s truth-bending came on the first day of Parliament this week when the king of all logistical cock-ups played out. The drama probably generated flurries of “WTF” texts between political nerds, but it’s pretty esoteric to the rest of us, so I’ll just give you bullet points.
Labour and National started the day fighting the world’s dullest battle over Select Committee numbers. Labour had the swagger of power, telling National exactly how things were going to be. By mid-afternoon, National had won. Labour struck a deal giving in to National because it had ballsed up the vote to get Trevor Mallard into the Speaker’s job.
That was a pretty big embarrassment on the very first day of Parliament. It was maybe predictable and probably forgivable given the massive group of MPs Labour’s whips are trying to corral. But what wasn’t forgivable was then telling us the whole thing went swimmingly and, actually, the deal was struck just to be decent. Really?
Anyone who has gone through the torture of buying a house, negotiating a pay increase or grudgingly telling the dairy owner he can keep the change knows you never give up more than you have to.
It’s not a surprise Labour tried to paint the schoolboy error in a better light. The alternative is looking unprepared for the basics of government.
But what is surprising is that instead of opting for a plausible half truth, it threw itself headfirst into a story no one would believe. That’s either amateur or arrogant.
And that PR fail came only one day after another case of spinning.
When announcing paid parental leave would extend from 18 to 22 weeks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a point of rubbing in how stingy we Kiwis are. When it comes to maternity leave, she told us we have “one of the lowest in the OECD where the average is 48 weeks”.
Wait, what? Forty eight weeks is nearly three times what ours was! How did we get to be such mum-haters?
The OECD average is really 17.7 weeks, which means we’re doing okay internationally. Labour had to jump through several statistical hoops and lump all sorts of lesser forms of maternal care into one basket to concoct that unfair comparison.
Spin from a Government is no new thing. We’d be naive to expect anything less. But sometimes we are naive when we see bright new shiny things, especially when those bright new shiny things are trying so darned hard to show how different they are to the last lot.
But when you see spin in one place, you start to see it everywhere.
For example, it’s an interesting exercise to compare this left-wing Government with Justin Trudeau’s left-wing Canadian Government. Where Ardern is “relentlessly positive”, Trudeau talks of his “sunny ways”.
Ardern says “we can do better”. Trudeau says “we can do better”.
Ardern’s Cabinet arrived in a bus at the Government swearing in. Trudeau’s Cabinet got dropped off by bus, too.
All those things look hollow when you realise there’s a playbook.
When you lift the bonnet, it’s all the same underneath. Politicians will be politicians will be politicians. They’re not always going to be up front with us. They are going to spin.
The trouble for this lot is that two weeks into a three-year term is very early to have us questioning their honesty.
Two weeks into a three year term is very early to have us questioning the party’s honesty
At its swearing in, the Government was glowing, but spin is already kicking in.