Thursday, November 29, 2007

Altogether now - blame Hel-elen!

Some years ago now Southpark had an episode where, because things kept going wrong at home the town/school authorities decided they needed a scapegoat. They picked Canada. There was a long song and dance routine which proposed "blame Can-a-da" as the answer to all woes. In typical fashion Southpark then depicted a major war by the United States against its long-suffering northern neighbour.

Comedy, I thought, until I took a gander at the Australian Labor Party's campaign website recently {}. Basically it was a case of "Blame How-a-ward!" for just about anything! Mortage making your eyes water? "Blame How-a-ward!". Groceries getting expensive? "Blame How-a-ward!" Cost too much to fill the car "Blame How-a-ward!" What about the drought ? Yup, you got it! "Blame How-a-ward!"

Now, I have long admired Australian politicians. I loved Hawke's blokey, matey sentimental nonsense. I liked the snake-like Keating as he spat vitriol and collected French clocks like a snob. Maybe they were more amusing at a distance. But John Howard has always reminded me of a turd. There was something dank and unpleasant just in the look of the man and his politically nasty and adroit manner didn't seem to reflect any of the qualities one admires of Australians.

But pinning the blame for outrageous land prices, a global shortfall in wheat production and the investment policies of OPEC nations on John Howard personally, just seems to be a tad unfair. And of course it is - but that's the point. Those clever Australian Labor Party strategists have borrowed from military thinking and realised that a good offence is better than good defence.

On the face of it John Howard had nothing to fear. He had delivered a thundering economy and tax cuts. New Zealanders, sick of paying huge taxes for dwindling services, are packing their bags to become a part of it in unprecedented numbers {}. But Howard was still exposed. His labour relations policy made the average "Aussie battler" nervous and Australians (like almost everyone else in the world outside of Texas) felt being embroiled in Iraq had been something of a Mistake.

So Labor played on fear and irritation. Fear of what might happen (Peter Costello and even more anti-labour legislation) and irritation with the niggling things that even in the "Lucky Country" anger people: sky high mortgages; and the rising cost of living. And they bombarded the public with it like a tennis ball machine on overdrive. Because it is very glib and easy to blame people and very tiresome and difficult for them to explain why they are not to blame. In a two second soundbite "Blame How-a-ward!" is easy. Explaining high global food prices is impossible.

Given this object lesson in winning elections right next door it is hard to see how National can muck it up here in 2008. Its easy! Altogether now "Blame Hel-elen!". And Helen has even more to be defensive about than John Howard. First there are the common ones:

Housing (much more) unaffordable ? "Blame Hel-elen!"
Grocery prices rising too fast? "Blame Hel-elen!"
Gas costs (artificially) too much ? "Blame Hel-elen!"

Then you can get into the kiwi ones.

Murderers let loose on the streets? "Blame Hel-elen!"
Doctors leaving in droves? "Blame Hel-elen!"
Mothers turfed out of hospitals? "Blame Hel-elen!"
Parents convicted for spanking kids? "Blame Hel-elen!"
Schools closing/short of cash? "Blame Hel-elen!"
Call that a tax cut? "Blame Hel-elen!"
No progress on Maori greivances?"Blame Hel-elen!"
Anti business legislation?"Blame Hel-elen!"

Man, the avalanche of blame waiting to be let loose on the Prime Minister's head is simply awesome. Some of it may even be deserved! But whether it is, or isn't, won't make any difference. The main point is that it will be easy to fire accusations and very hard to deflect them.

Now the Prime Minister isn't stupid. She knows what's coming. She can read. So what will she do? My guess is more Madagascar Monkey raids. Thats where you whip in and throw poo at the leader of the opposition when he isn't expecting it. The objective is to make him appear an untrustworthy slimeball.

It worked well against Don Brash who, if Nicky Hager is correct, was basically shown to be one. Certainly his extra-marital affair and the sudden amnesia over contact with a bunch of radically sexist fundamentalists made it look that way. But in my view Brash was an easy target. Everything he did alienated women. The essential swinging female vote that Bill Clinton charmed so well, found very little in Don-errrr-Brash, to like. John Key is another story. He's younger, he's better looking, he's a family man, and he's rich. Women like that.

Key's biggest failing however is that, like his deputy Bill English, he can occassionally be a goofus. The Coldplay disaster is poo that sticks. Being caught on tape claiming to lead the Labour Party was even worse than English's brilliant concession of defeat when he told Parliament before the last election Labour wouldn't get a fourth term instead of a third. To look confident National cannot afford to look so stupid. Labour will almost certainly use every stupid thing the National caucus ever said in 2008 and it won't need a bigger pile of poo than the one National MPs have been providing it to date.

What Key has to do is make like Kevin Rudd and play the steadfastly smiling conductor to a choir singing "Blame Hel-elen!" while telling everyone that the solutions are very simple and making sure he doesn't get drawn into any details. The more Labour throws shit the more it will end up looking grubby and unpleasant. Come to think of it, it sounds almost exactly like the way David Lange won office in 1984!

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: