Stacey Kirk

Sunday Star-Times - - Focus - Pol­i­tics [email protected]

New year, new you! The peren­nial trope ap­plies to politi­cians too and, let’s face it, as the po­lit­i­cal year wears on, the out­look usu­ally only tends to be bleaker than it was the day be­fore.

When we con­sider the Gov­ern­ment’s dump­ster clear-out of dam­ag­ing Karel Sroubek in­for­ma­tion that took place dur­ing the dy­ing hours of the last work­ing day of 2018, it’s no won­der all who re­turn strive for a lit­tle air­brushed re­set to con­ceal the blem­ishes.

Sheesh, that was a low point that Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Iain Lees-Gal­loway will be hop­ing we’ve all for­got­ten (but here’s your re­minder).

Prob­lems arise though, when the pho­to­shop­ping – both metaphor­i­cal and lit­eral – is car­ried out with a bit too much gusto.

Just ask Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son, who found him­self the butt of ridicule when his staff botched an un­nec­es­sary Pho­to­shop job, by past­ing hip new sneak­ers over his tired old kicks and mis­tak­enly giv­ing the em­bat­tled leader two left feet in the process. The gaffe served to high­light the level of de­tail a leader’s army of press sec­re­taries will go to, to con­trol their im­age.

New Zealand’s politi­cians are no dif­fer­ent in that re­gard.

Whether it’s Na­tional leader Si­mon Bridges guz­zling a beer in a flo­ral shirt, or Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern sign­ing on for a round of soft me­dia in the gos­sip mags, none of these im­ages tell us any­thing worth know­ing about them. All are de­signed to give the il­lu­sion that they do.

Re­cent de­bate in the United States over the ‘‘like­abil­ity test’’ – as it ap­plied to Hil­lary Clin­ton, and now pres­i­den­tial hope­ful El­iz­a­beth War­ren – would sug­gest this is a rel­a­tively new phe­nom­e­non. It’s not.

Sadly, in the case of women, it’s more closely aligned to the sub­ject’s looks. But as it ap­plies to male po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, it could per­haps be more ac­cu­rately de­scribed as the ‘‘beer test’’, as in ‘‘he seems like a good guy to have a beer with’’.

But that only gets a politi­cian so far and this is the year where the rub­ber hits the road for the lead­ers of both ma­jor par­ties.

The Gov­ern­ment’s stalled as long as it can with sundry work­ing groups. The trou­ble with ap­point­ing ex­perts to these things is that they’re in­cred­i­bly earnest in their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to come up with so­lu­tions. So­lu­tions which cost money, of which the Gov­ern­ment has plenty but still not enough to ful­fil the prom­ises it’s made.

Health, men­tal health, ed­u­ca­tion re­form, jus­tice re­form, pub­lic ser­vice pay, cli­mate change and tax is­sues are all cry­ing out for bold de­ci­sions and tankers of cash.

For the Op­po­si­tion, get­ting through the in­evitable re­turn of Jami-Lee Ross un­scathed, and avoid­ing a sig­nif­i­cant drop in the polls, will be what de­cides Bridges’ lead­er­ship.

But ham­mer­ing the Gov­ern­ment on tar­geted soft spots will likely yield re­sults. The Gov­ern­ment is al­most damned ei­ther way on a cap­i­tal gains tax and if mean­ing­ful men­tal health so­lu­tions aren’t fac­tored into the Bud­get, it will face a huge cri­sis of con­fi­dence.

And as the pub­lic learns more of planned ed­u­ca­tion re­forms – un­avoid­ably con­tro­ver­sial – Na­tional should only in­crease its arse­nal.

So en­joy the po­lit­i­cal calm while it lasts. This year prom­ises to bring more than a few blem­ishes that no amount of fil­ters can hide.

This is the year where the rub­ber hits the road for the lead­ers of both ma­jor par­ties.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.